Recently, a client at one of the group homes got upset and caused damage to his room. His remorse was evident, and rather than resorting to punishment, staff sought out useful ways for him to make amends. He was able to help maintenance with various tasks—especially fitting since he had generated more maintenance work with his actions the day before. Even the receptionist got involved, asking him to carry several boxes to another building.
The ability to give genuine assistance to others and repair relationships enabled our client to see himself as a valued member of the community, no longer a “worthless troublemaker.” In addition, members of the staff who do not work in direct-care positions were given the opportunity to make a tangible difference in a student’s life, reminding us all why we are here.
Many of the children we work with have had primarily negative, damaging relationships with the adults in their lives. Rather than gaining confidence from a guardian’s approval and affection, they have learned to live by shame and fear. In addition, they have likely not had examples of how to deal with frustration or anger in healthy ways. As you might imagine, this combination can lead to a vicious cycle of outburst, punishment, shame, repeat. Redemption is simply not an option in their world.
The mission of Klingberg Family Centers is to build “healing relationships that empower children and families to reach their full potential.” The restorative approach, which was introduced to Klingberg by Patricia D. Wilcox, LCSW, seeks to break the cycle of shame using positive connections and the opportunity for redemption and growth. In the example above, it also allowed the entire Klingberg community to take part in facilitating the emotional healing of one of our kids—a rewarding way to end the week.
For more about the restorative approach, visit http://traumaticstressinstitute.org/.